It started in May. As regular readers know, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel spoke on the air about his young son's heart surgery, and his belief that all Americans should have access to affordable, potentially life-saving, care.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) soon after began referencing the "Jimmy Kimmel Test": for a health care proposal to have merit, the Louisiana Republican said, it should ensure families are covered regardless of income. Cassidy even appeared on Kimmel's show, vowing to protect Americans who need protecting.
The GOP senator, however, changed quite dramatically, abandoned the "test," and partnered with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on a radical, regressive proposal -- which the ABC host shredded in a brutal monologue on Tuesday night. Cassidy, Kimmel said, "lied right to my face," referencing an appearance the Republican made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
The senator quickly defended himself, making a variety of television appearances in which he argued that Kimmel doesn't know what he's talking about. "I am sorry he does not understand," the senator told CNN. "More people will have coverage, and we protect those with pre-existing conditions."
So, who's right? In reality, more people won't have coverage, Cassidy isn't protecting those with pre-existing conditions, and Politico published a piece quoting health care analysts who concluded that between the host and the senator, "the late-night host has the better grasp of health policy."
[E]xperts say that Cassidy and Graham's bill can't guarantee those protections and that Kimmel's assessment was basically accurate because of the flexibility the bill gives states to set up their own health care systems. For example, health insurers could hike premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions if their states obtain waivers from Obamacare regulations -- as Kimmel said. [...]The bill would also roll back the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion and make other funding changes, like converting Obamacare funds into block grants and ending traditional Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement that would force states to choose whether to cut Medicaid enrollment, benefits or payments to providers -- or else raise taxes.
Joan Alker, the program director at Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families, told Politico, "Graham-Cassidy, like the previous Senate 'repeal and replace' proposals, takes a fiscal crowbar to Medicaid's knees.... Kimmel did not overstate the impact. If Graham-Cassidy becomes law, there is no guarantee a child born with a congenital heart defect will get the coverage they need. It would depend on where they live, but even states with good intentions would struggle to protect children with the massive cuts to Medicaid included in this bill."
On the one hand, this isn't especially surprising. Kimmel and his staff clearly did their homework in preparation for that monologue. On other hand, this isn't exactly a predictable dynamic: when a late-night talk-show host goes up against a U.S. senator -- who happens to be the principal architect of pending health care legislation -- we'd expect the senator to prevail.
Except in this case, it's Kimmel who told the truth and had his facts straight.
* Postscript: Kimmel took another shot at Cassidy and his allies on his show last night, and implored viewers to call Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to oppose the Graham-Cassidy plan.
* Second Postscript: There's apparently a growing sentiment on the right that Kimmel, as a late-night host, should "stay in his lane" and leave the health care fight to more knowledgeable experts. The problem with this is twofold: (1) Kimmel had a "better grasp of health policy" than Cassidy, who's supposed to know what he's talking about; and (2) Republicans helped put a reality-show personality in the Oval Office, so perhaps the right should think twice about this entire line of attack.